Joachim Jean-Marie Forget, also known as Joachim Son-Forget, is a South Korean-born, French politician and professional radiologist. Since 2017, he has been a member of the French National Assembly (lower house of the French Parliament) representing French residents overseas. He works part-time as a radiologist in Switzerland. He has held Kosovar citizenship since 2018. Adopted by a French family as a child, and holder of a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience, Son-Forget was previously active within the French Socialist Party and later La République En Marche (LaREM) until he resigned from the party in late 2018. He has since founded his own political party, first called “Je suis français et européen” (JSFee), then “Valeur absolue.”
The following conversation with political journalist Grégoire Canlorbe happened in December 2019, in Paris. An abridged version was first published by Gatestone Institute, in December 2019.
Grégoire Canlorbe: You are known for your stormy positions, for example on ART [assisted reproductive technology]. Do you espouse Julie Graziani’s polemical claim that (in substance) it is better not to divorce for a woman who lives on minimum wage, knowing that everyone, rich or poor, must shoulder its responsibilities?
Joachim Son-Forget: My point about ART is different from that of pro-life parties, in that it does not carry a desire to discriminate against homosexual people who would like to educate a child. I only notice that nature has made that two men together or two women together cannot give life, and I think we should have the wisdom to respect nature in that case. Certainly we were able—thankfully!—to go beyond nature in various fields: thanks to modern medicine, infant mortality has become practically insignificant in the West (whereas before the nineteenth century, one child in four died before the age of one, and one child in two reached the age of ten). Technical progress has given us opportunities for transportation and communication that were inconceivable for our ancestors. But all of that is out of proportion with the fact of wanting to go beyond nature in the field of gestation. It is a barrier that it would be unwise to cross… were it only out of regard for the existential questions of children born through surrogacy.
Once again, there is no homophobic discrimination in my speech: I cannot find fault with entrusting orphans to homosexual couples, on the contrary! Regarding Julie Graziani, whom I do not know, and whom I believe is absolutely unknown in France beyond a meager buzz already forgotten, I usually try to look up, and to comment, if not renowned thinkers, at least people who are somewhat existing. So expressing myself about what the housewife of the neighborhood thinks (perhaps her opinion is, in fact, more valid than that of that lady), no I wouldn’t do that! Now, to answer you on the subject matter: family is indeed the traditional economic model of survival in a precarious situation. For those who are penniless, and who live in the anxiety of a blackout or a banking ban, getting married was—and could still be—the opportunity to found a tribe whose members will provide for the needs from each other and will bring assistance, comfort and solidarity to each other. In a world subject to biological or social determinisms like ours, it is a bit illusory to call people to “shoulder their responsibilities.” Epigenetics teaches us how acquired traits such as violence can be rendered heritable (via the messenger RNA game). Certainly education can, in part, remedy determinism just like the eviction of deleterious conditions… at least I like to think it to keep a bit of utopia to move forward.
Grégoire Canlorbe: In your eyes, which is the country of East Asia whose culture is closest to that of France? You are not unaware that Claude Lévi-Strauss opted for Japan…
Joachim Son-Forget: Levi-Strauss actually said of Japan that it had “developed more than any other people an analytical taste and a critical spirit exercised in all the registers of sentiment and sensibility,” and “a gift of analysis and systematic criticism” that the France of Montaigne and Descartes had deployed “in the order of ideas.” He spoke of “two parallel forms of critical thinking” that respond to each other “at opposite ends of the Old World.”
I do not contest this rapprochement operated by Levi-Strauss, but French still seem to me to be closer to Koreans in terms of temperament. Presumably because of their insular character (while France, if I may say so, is more of a peninsula), Japanese have developed a culture of self-denial. They have a refined aesthetic and a eulogy of the beautiful death (while Chinese were obsessed by the long life), an ideal both violent and refined, which attracted many French observers. But their sense of honor drives them to silence their individual aspirations… and to save appearances by taking refuge in hypocrisy. Having an extroverted, loudmouth personality is far more common among Koreans than it is among Japanese. From that point of view, France looks much less like Japan than like Korea.
Nevertheless I would like to point out a spirit common to the European (including French) and Japanese aristocracies of yesteryear. A spirit that I would call universalist, and which was the one to acquire the control of a very large, virtually universal, number of disciplines. To know how to handle the pen and the sword. To excel in war, as well as in painting, literature, physics, philosophy, engineering, or in medicine. At the time of our world of ultra-specialization and dilettantism, it is an ideal which I cannot think of without a certain tenderness…
Grégoire Canlorbe: You have distanced yourself from Macron’s party. Do you think that France needs a leader of the caliber of Park Chung-hee?
Joachim Son-Forget: With its assumed mixture of a dirigiste capitalism and a libertarian capitalism, market economy intertwined with reason of state, the authoritarian presidency of Park Chung-hee certainly allowed the economic takeoff of South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s. However I would not say that his political heritage, especially his genetic political legacy, is a success in all respects. His daughter Park Geun-hye, who was President of South Korea from 2013 to 2017, was sentenced and dismissed for absolutely delusional corruption stories… revealing the state’s status, which was a real tank of endemic malpractices, in today’s South Korean society. Is it different elsewhere will you say, or just more or less well concealed?
As for France, it is fundamentally ambivalent, in that, egalitarian and republican as it is, it dreams of a paternal figure at its head. It may have guillotined Louis XVI, it remains nostalgic of the kings of yesteryear. A good compromise between equality and monarchy is the Napoleonic figure: the soldier who rises in society to the point of finishing at its head, but did not inherit his imperial title. However I am not sure that the Napoleonic residues certainly perennial in the French society would be enough to create the enthusiasm for the equivalent of a Park Chung-hee: in other words, a military dictator in a formally republican framework. Peoples in the world want gender equality, free speech, transparency, the fight against corruption, the independence of government with respect to economy… they refuse dictatorship with all its cortege of repressions. Certainly democracies are not always so different from dictatorships when it comes to knowing who, the people or an established caste, holds political power. Let us say that democracies know better how to disguise things…
Grégoire Canlorbe: Your party was previously called “I am French and European.” How do you react to the EU’s attitude both hostile to Trump and amiable towards Mullahs’ Iran?
Joachim Son-Forget: I do not think that the EU is particularly hostile to Trump, except that it regrets and denounces the trade war that has been declared to it: it is a fair game, fortunately. I fully understand the US President’s decision to increase tariffs on goods such as European wines or Airbus aircraft. Trump defends the economic interests of America, and he is obviously right to do so from his point of view. As far as I am concerned with French and European interests, I am certainly obliged to approve the tariff sanctions with which the EU has promised to respond. But Trump is a great President, whom I regret that he cannot find in Macron an interlocutor who answers him very firmly (even if he has to use destabilizing, even violent, words in his retort as well). Someone who skillfully and ferociously defends his own economic and geopolitical interests, as Kim Jong-un, who has been so skillful till now despite his age and his education on Swiss soil.
I agree with President Trump on some of his ideas: his Reaganian libertarianism, the success of which sharply contrasts with the economic record of his French homolog, who—despite economic and structural reforms that go in the right direction—is struggling to get rid of the socialism so present in the énarque formations, where the state is there, all the time, even when it should abstain and let the private do. But also Trump’s concern to thwart hegemonic ambitions on the part of Mullahs’ Iran, which is only one of the many heads of the Islamist hydra, pretending to want to eat each other. The same Iran which launched a delirious fatwa on the excellent Salman Rushdie. History will not be tender with Emmanuel Macron if he does not show a greater firmness against Iran… as well as against the terrorist threat and the Islamist ideology that reign on his own soil. In the end, what shocks the elites of Paris or Brussels with President Trump, is actually that he embodies a real governance, which is in total inadequacy with their mode of operation.
Neither the EU nor France are technocracies: they are rather what I would be tempted to call administrocracies. They are in the hands of people who, failing to take strong decisions, and to have a scientific mastery of problems, comment on the news all day long. Hence the gap that separates the profile of that political class from that of the entrepreneur extremely free and direct in his speech, extremely skillful and surprising in his way of doing, that is Donald Trump. Naturally there is also the discomfort that his nationalistic conception of the role of the state inspires in them: his conviction that governments are at the service of national interests (and not those of some supranational authority). As it stands, the “European construction” is based on the latent prejudice that European identity takes precedence over national affiliations, which is an anthropological error. The peoples who live in Europe are—and feel—English, Italians, French, or Poles, before being Europeans. It is necessary to respect the stacking of identities starting from the smallest set, the family, the tribe, towards larger sets, everyone not having the same faculty or desire to identify with large sets. It is, besides, the limit of the sacred union of populists: they will be necessarily in brutal opposition on many points by defense of their sovereign interests.
Grégoire Canlorbe: Trump is facing the three great totalitarian perils of the contemporary world that are Mullahs’ Iran, Maoist China, and North Korea. How do you see North Korea (trying to) move its pawns in the game?
Joachim Son-Forget: The defense of Western humanism against totalitarianism is a major issue. By humanism, I obviously mean the attachment to values such as equality in law and the desire to allow the optimal development of everyone, regardless of their social or ethnic origin. And not the pseudo-humanistic excesses that are extreme feminism, or the granting of rights to animals. Or the political ecology of the left, who wants by panic to precipitate Homo sapiens sapiens into a regressive state of nature.
The hegemonic pretensions of North Korea are helped by the geopolitical withdrawal of Japan, which is incessantly repenting for what it does not want to apologize for… the crimes committed on the various peoples—including Korean—which Japan subjugated during its imperial expansion in the first part of the twentieth century. North Korea can also count on the support of China, which challenges America’s position as the world’s leading economic power. With regard to its endogenous advantages, North Korea has good genetics, if I may say so. The Korean ethnicity (be it at the north or the south of the Korean peninsula, or in Caucasian countries such as Kazakhstan or in China where the Korean diaspora settled) is the result of a number of brewings which allowed for qualities of resilience, diligence, or curiosity.
A second advantage of North Korea is in terms of technology. Clandestinely North Korea is at the forefront of computing, which allows it to siphon significant funds through the blockchain. As concerns nuclear, the talks between Washington and Pyongyang are now in the rut. Unlike his South Korean homolog Moon Jae-in, who works to appease relations between the two Korea (on the idea of mutual trust first, then progressive denuclearization), and has hosted therefore a North Korean delegation in the PyeongChang Olympics, Kim Jong-un has no interest in carrying out denuclearization.
The latter is neither total nor irreversible, let alone verifiable. The North Korean regime is only continuing its merry way as evidenced by the missile fire of December 2019, the effect of which it promises will be “very important,” and will change the “strategic status” of North Korea… Why would the regime comply with adopting a position of weakness? I note that the rhetoric of Western language elements that North Korea mastered neither atmospheric reentry vectors nor terminal guidance, suddenly disappeared from all official arguments as of the opening of negotiations with Trump. One would not have started negotiating with Pyongyang if there was not a tangible threat.